Suspect in BK murder has shocking criminal past
December 5, 2006 (LINDENHURST, Ill.) (WLS) -- The man accused of murdering a Burger King restaurant manager was described by a judge as a "monster on the loose" more than 20 years ago. James Ealy was freed from prison back in the '80s despite being convicted of killing four members of a Chicago family.
The outrage over Ealy's release comes on the same night family members of restaurant manager Mary Hutchison spoke about his arrest.
The Hutchison family has filed suit against Burger King for failing to do a background check on James Ealy before they hired him. A background check might have revealed his criminal history that includes convictions for rape, battery and the quadruple homicide that was later overturned.
Lakeesha Parker was just 1 year old when James Ealy killed her mother, grandmother and two other relatives. She was raised by other relatives and never really has known much about the killer -- until now, now that he has allegedly killed again more than two decades later.
"I think you'd just have to be the scum of the earth to do that. I just don't think that he has a heart," said Parker.
James Ealy was 17 years old in 1982 when he was convicted of the strangulation murders of the four family members. Just two years later, however, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned the case, ruling that investigators illegally searched his home and arrested him without probable cause.
Vic Switski was the investigator who headed up the case. He strongly disagreed with the court's decision to release Ealy. He read about the latest murder in the paper.
"Towards the end of the article, it said that the lady out in Lindenhurst and it just felt like I'd been kicked in the gut, because I knew it had to be James Ealy," said Switski, a retired Chicago police officer.
I think the police did a good job in the first case. You can interpret facts and construe facts in different ways. I think the police were careful," said Mike Waller, Lake County states attorney.
Mike Waller's office will be prosecuting Ealy for the murder of Mary Hutchison. But, he says, this case never should have happened because Ealy never should have been let out of prison in the first place.
The prosecutor at the time, Brian Telander, condemned Ealy's release.
"Having this guy out on the street is a travesty," The (Waukegan) New Sun cited Telander as saying. "He's going to be a dangerous person out there."
Ealy's criminal history includes a rape conviction in which he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. He was paroled in 1993. In 1996, he was convicted for attacking a prostitute, for which he was paroled in 1999.
Judge Eugene Pincham was on the appellate court that overturned Ealy's conviction. He says he stands by that ruling but does not remember details of the case.
Mary Hutchison's family Tuesday night avoided the subject of Ealy's criminal history. But her death has been devastating for them.
"We were more than daughter and father, we were best friends," said Richard Dean, Hutchison's father.
"We have to go on, that's the way Mary wanted it. We just want justice to be served," said Kenneth Hutchison, Victim's husband.
Burger King wouldn't comment about their background check policy, but did say Ealy lied on his job application.
Ealy is being held without bond for the murder of Mary Hutchison.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.)
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